01-14-14: American Red Cross honors student and dad as heroes
01-14-14: American Red Cross honors student and dad as heroes
Posted on 01/14/2014

The 911 dispatcher knows they are heroes.


So do the firefighters who raced to their home and the hospital staff who witnessed a young boy show courage beyond his years.


Now, nearly a year later, the American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter has made it official. The organization recognized 10-year-old Bryce Smithlin and his father, Tony, as heroes during the organization’s annual Pierce County Heroes Breakfast.


The Stewart Elementary fourth grader and his father, a volunteer at the school, received one of eight hero awards presented before a crowd of more than 600 people gathered in October at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma.


The Red Cross selected Bryce and Tony from a pool of 18 nominations to receive the “Family Rescue Award” and presented them with an etched glass trophy that sits prominently above the family fireplace.


Kyra Smithlin is thankful she was alive to join them on stage as they received their award. Her life was saved a year ago thanks to the quick thinking and action taken by her husband and son, as well as firefighters and hospital medical personnel.Image


“The event was so inspiring,” said Kyra, who has since had a pacemaker and defibrillator installed because of a rare medical condition she unknowingly had since birth.


“It didn’t seem real as I sat there listening to these stories of such amazing people and knowing we were grouped in with them,” she said. “It was cool to see my little guy as the only kid up there and to know that kids can do amazing things.”


Before being called to the stage, and with a photo of Bryce and Tony projected onto oversized screens around the room, a hushed audience listened to their family rescue story.


December 15, 2012


With his mother lying motionless on the floor, Bryce held the phone to his father’s ear so that Tony could hear the 911 operator talk him through performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Kyra.


The boy can be heard faintly in the background reassuring his mother, “It’s going to be O.K.”


Bryce gives the same reassurance to his father as paramedics and firefighters take over the life-saving efforts in the bedroom, and again in the emergency room and intensive care unit at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital.


“He remained level-headed and really kept his dad’s courage going,” said Administrative Supervisor Shannon Pulley. “It was something to see a boy that age have such strength. In the middle of the whole scenario, he told me in the emergency room, ‘Can you tell my mom I love her?’”


When Kyra’s heart stopped again later that day and the family was told to say their goodbyes, Bryce climbed up on her bed, told her he loved her, and said he told her it was “OK to give up if you just can’t make it, but if you can work hard, please do it.” He also remembers telling her he was sorry if he was ever bad, “and that I know you love me.”

As a room full of doctors, nurses, and family members looked on, Kyra’s heart rate and blood pressure started to rise.


Bryce continued to talk to his mother for nearly three hours before he fell asleep on the bed. While Kyra was unconscious through it all, her vital signs stabilized.


Family Rescue Award


The October award ceremony marked the 20th anniversary of the Pierce County Heroes Breakfast. The American Red Cross Mount Rainier chapter serves Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Lewis, and Grays Harbor counties.


“Each year we seek to find individuals in the community who exemplified the Red Cross mission or made a significant positive difference in their communities in the areas of emergency response, preparedness, and prevention,” said Kayla Lehrman, development specialist with the American Red Cross.


ImageLehrman said she learned about the Smithlin’s story of bravery after reading an article published in the April 2013 issue of the Puyallup School District Connections, which was reprinted online in the Puyallup Patch.


“Tony and Bryce both acted with exceptional courage and grace when someone dear and near to their heart was in an emergency situation,” she said.


Lehrman said the committee that selects the heroes each year was especially in awe of how calm Bryce remained throughout the entire situation.


“Tony and Bryce are both exceptional heroes in their community and truly epitomize what it means to work together to implement a family rescue.”


Q13 Fox News Anchor David Rose, who partnered with colleague Marni Hughes as masters of ceremonies at the Heroes Breakfast, told the audience he had waited all morning to hear the Smithlin’s story.


Hughes added that emergency preparedness is key. “It is critical you are prepared every single moment of the day,” she said.


Tony addressed the crowd first at the microphone, thanking the 911 operator, the firefighters and medical staff, and his son. “Bryce was the rock that kept me going,” he said.


Bryce also said a few words, thanking the Central Pierce Fire & Rescue firefighters, including Brent Grabinski, a firefighter and emergency medical technician.


Grabinski befriended the boy in the hospital by giving him some stickers, praising him for how he handled the 911 call, and later giving him and his family members a tour of the fire station.


Central Pierce Fire & Rescue also presented the boy and his father with a Life Saving Award last February for their “outstanding support by assisting with CPR and saving a life on December 15, 2012.”


Grabinski and Ed Hrivnak, an assistant chief of prevention and public education with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, sat with the Smithlin family at the heroes breakfast and joined them in giving a standing ovation when Bryce and Tony were honored.


Tony’s parents, John and Jeanette Smithlin, and Kyra’s mother, Geri Crawford, also watched after the award breakfast as Hughes, of Q13 Fox News, interviewed Tony and Bryce for a news report aired on television that night.


Since that event, Kyra has met with the American Heart Association to discuss ways to share her story and messages, including the importance of being trained in CPR and having the heart checked, even when young.


While her heart stopped again last May, it restarted thanks to the defibrillator, she said. Kyra has since had another surgery on a heart node that was misfiring, and she has changed medications.


“I’m doing really well,” she said.


Bethany Sexton, vice president of MultiCare Health System revenue cycle, summarized the heroic efforts of all those honored at the Heroes Breakfast.

“Disasters happen here locally on a daily basis,” she said. “The capacity to be a hero lives within each of us.”


The story above about the American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast is a follow-up to an article published about Bryce, Tony, and Kyra Smithlin in the April 2013 Connections.